CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The three Republicans running for governor of Wyoming laid out starkly different visions at a debate in Monday in Riverton of how the state ought to deal with the federal environmental regulations and land management issues.
Gov. Matt Mead, Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill and Dr. Taylor Haynes faced off at a live debate on Wyoming PBS. Reporters Geoff O’Gara and Stephanie Joyce handled the questioning.
Joyce asked the candidates which specific programs and responsibilities should be handled by the federal government, other than national defense.
Haynes, a rancher and retired physician, said that if he’s elected, Wyoming will take over federal lands and pocket the current federal share of mineral revenues. He maintained the Constitution recognizes no federally owned lands in Wyoming outside of structures including forts and magazines.
Haynes said sees the role of the federal government to make sure that interstate commerce flows smoothly. “And also, the federal government should do a better job on our southern border,” he said.
Hill says that if elected, she would only work with the federal government on interstate commerce.
“Interstate commerce is the only focus that the federal government has within Wyoming and that’s where my concern would lie,” Hill said.
Mead, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said any governor has to acknowledge the reality of the federal presence in the state and follow federal regulations.
Mead noted the federal government has about 13,000 federal employees in Wyoming. “So it’s not easy to just say, ‘hey, we’re not going to work with you and all we care about is interstate commerce,’” he said.
Mead said that given the expanse of federal lands in the state, a governor has to be prepared to work with federal officials. He noted his administration has come to agreement with federal officials about ending federal management of wolves.
“I think that’s the role of governor, not to say, ‘we want to pretend it’s a different way than it is,” Mead said.
All three candidates emphasized their support of citizens’ right to own and carry firearms.
In closing remarks, Mead said he recognizes that the future of Wyoming is in the public’s hands.
“We have an obligation to continue to move this state forward so our kids and our grandkids can live in this wonderful state, and that does happen by pipedreams and fantasy,” Mead said. “You have to live in the real world and make the tough decisions.”
Haynes said he first got involved in politics when he saw the Clinton Administration try to kick public land livestock grazers off of public lands.
Haynes acknowledged that his campaign has caused some concern because of his call to remove federal control over all the land in the state. However, he emphasized his believe that other states already have done this.
“All that’s needed is a governor that’s needed is a governor to act on the legislation that’s already there,” Haynes said.
In closing remarks, Hill noted she went to court to overturn a state law that Mead signed last year that removed her as head of the Wyoming Department of Education. Hill said a secretive group of powerful people has controlled Wyoming for too long and said it’s time to set a course of correction.
“We’re at a defining moment in Wyoming history,” Hill said.
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